"Identity"

Preoccupations

2021-05-28

What is the meaning of the word ‘identity’? The first instinct is to consult some passage in a dictionary but I find this to be a midwit exercise for a word that I use and is used commonly. 

Let’s try the negative connotation: identity is not the individual, identity is not the living being that embraces any particular ‘identity’, identity is not a static property of an individual being. From the negative, a positive connotation: identity is a dynamic property of an individual, which can extend to multiple individuals, that is explicitly embraced by the individual(s). It’s self-referential or self-assigning in a way, a circularity with little to no sense. 

The above suggests that we have implicit ‘identities’ which I think is true because the individual is always changing as it moves through time and space. Thus, we can never really pin down our true identity so, paradoxically, it is as if we effectively have no identity at the most fundamental level.

Conflict and problems enter the picture here when individuals define themselves or let themselves be defined by a particular ideology which they take on as an identity. Naval Ravikant mentions that stripping away one’s identities allows for clearer thinking as one is not anchored to any given sets of preconceived notions. It seems that having no identity is desirable to live, act, and think freely or independently. 

So when I say that I am a Catholic, I wonder how to reconcile this problem of identity. How can I be a Catholic and also reject any identity? The answer to this, it seems to me, is to abandon the idea of identity as being essential to the individual and embrace the inherent meaninglessness of ‘identity’. 

I am who I am.


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